Fatih

Hello? That girl? Are you there??

To the girl that had everything. Don’t worry, those were just things.

To the girl that had the guy she wanted. It’s okay because the one who loves you, will want you back – forever.

To the girl who was on top of the world. Turns out – South Pole is top of the world too.

To the girl who had it all figured out. Silly girl, God is the only one who has it figured out. Prov 19:21

To the girl who wants more. Live in the now. Now is beautiful. Here is where your future is. Here is perfect.

To the girl who had a home. You still do. Home is where your heart is.

To the girl who is looking for happiness. Stop. Happiness is everywhere. Stop looking.

Love,

~ That girl.

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Fatih

Slow Down

Slow down.

1,000 miles per hour: the speed at which the Earth spins on its axis.

67,000 miles per hour: the speed at which the Earth is hurled around the Sun.

About 35 miles per hour: the speed at which I hit a series of bumps I’d hit probably 30 times before as I approached a downhill corner on Old Dennis Road in little Brock, Texas. The difference this morning was that it rained a little bit and those little bumps were enough for me to break traction in the truck that one of my best friends has let me borrow while I’m here in Texas and my Jeep is stranded in California. I recall thinking (in my coffee-deprived haze) that the truck should be turning by now, but no. And here we go!

Slow down, I prayed.

The big white Ford ran off the opposite side of the road, swapped ends and crossed back to the correct side of the road, stopping with the driver’s side firmly planted in a ditch. Well, shit. I thought. Truck was still running so I switched into 4×4. The truck lumbered forward riding along the ditch a bit. I put it in reverse, still in the ditch. Phooey. I had moved the truck enough that I was no longer against the bank and finally able to open the door. Surveying the damage from outside, it was apparent I wasn’t going anywhere. Panic set in. I cannot miss a trip.

Slow down, God said.

Wednesday before Thanksgiving found me starting a trip taking me all over the southern United States landing me in San Diego for Thanksgiving Day – long enough to drive to Creston to spend the day at home. The same Wednesday found me at the beginning of the flu. After spending the holiday with my family, I made it back to San Diego with a full heart, full tummy and a full blown fever. Shakes, sweats, chills .. I wanted to die. But instead, I finished working my trip, ran out of fuel about a mile outside of the Airport Employee Parking Lot in Fort Worth. I was in such a hurry to get to the airport, I thought I didn’t have time to get fuel. I certainly didn’t have time to be sick with a fever in a truck that was out of fuel and eventually a dead battery.

Slow down. I didn’t listen.

Six hours later, I finally made it home. 36 hours off and I was back at the airport in the wake of a five day fever and still feeling horrid. Two day trip then home again with plans to go to Vegas for the National Finals Rodeo to see my sister and best friend and what trouble I could find. I could barely get out of bed for almost three days. Physically and financially drained, I scrapped my plans to Vegas and tried to work my days off. As fate would have it, I wasn’t legal for a single trip. Homesick, still exhausted and longing for mom’s cooking, I knew it was time to see my family.

I think I’ll slow down a little ..

Two days at home was exactly what the doctor ordered. A run with my best friend, a great day working with another great friend, time with my parents and my niece, seeing the ranch green again and cooking on mom’s stove. These things are all food for my soul. One of my very wise Flight Attendant Instructors, Amy Freisen, left us with some very sage advice on our last day of class: To be the best person we can be, all things must be in balance: Faith, Family, Work. When these things are out of balance, find the things that fill you up and you’ll return to balance. I’m listening, Amy. Makes sense.

Time for me to slow down.

Vegas, Vegas. How could I get to Vegas!!?!? I know – I’ll work a trip! Sure enough, all it took was to update my preferences and at 6:42 this morning, Shirley from Crew Scheduling called with a trip where I’d stay tonight in Phoenix and be in Vegas tomorrow night for Round 10 of the NFR and to see my sister! Perfection!! All I had to do was finish packing my bags and get to the airport! I had two hours to go ..

I’d been praying to the wrong gods .. The God I should have been praying to, had different plans for me.

Manners in Texas aren’t limited to the dinner table or “Ma’am and Sir”. They extend to country roads where no one is a stranger. You quickly learn to wave at everyone you pass. And a Texan sees someone’s truck in a ditch facing the wrong way, Texans stop. Seven neighbors stopped to see if I was okay. So many people stopped that I had to call Crew Scheduling back no less than four times before I could tell them I’d been in an accident. One gentleman said that he’d go get the tractor from the Moore’s ranch right across the road. He’d worked for them for years and still has the keys. I told him I had two tires off the rim so a tractor wouldn’t help. He recommended I call Sargent’s. They were the best wrecker in town. I thanked him. Another gentleman stopped and said he had fixed that fence across the road about half a dozen times. He builds fence and every time someone runs through it, he gets the call. I apologized for not getting him any work this time. He was glad I didn’t, I agreed and thanked him for slowing down. Five other Texans slowed down to offer a ride or offer to call someone for me. I thanked them all for their kindness. I’m grateful for the manners Texans are born with.

Slow Down. I hear you.

I called the wrecker as recommended and the first voice I heard was a woman who grunted through what sounded like years of whiskey and cigarettes: “Sargent’s!” I couldn’t dam up the tears any longer. I began sobbing and she softened instantly. I hadn’t even gotten a word out when I heard her sweetly say, “Oh honey! Are you okay???” I squeaked out that I was but I needed a tow truck and that I was parked in a ditch on Old Dennis Road. She only asked if I was North or South of the highway and repeated back my phone number. We hung up and I couldn’t stop crying. I was so grateful for her grace and knew she would take care of me.

I can’t go anywhere without You. I am here, waiting for You.

Within 8 or so minutes, my roommate’s mother pulled up and insisted she wait with me until the wrecker came. We had enough time to turn the car around before the wrecker arrived. Out of the huge red truck, lights a-flashing, crawled a huge man. Bald head, red beard, tattoos up both arms. Kevin approached us with a wide smile and announced, “God was watching out for you today!” He introduced himself and handed us both a business card. Kevin is a wrecker by trade but what he really loves to do is spread the Word of God. Kevin is also a Preacher.

I hear you. I see you. I’m listening.

Kevin looked over the truck and much to my surprise, he found no major damage. Tires looked like they were in good shape. He offered the name of three tire shops after he deftly loaded the old white Ford onto the wrecker. On our ride to town, he told me stories of the others he’d pulled out of that same corner. He assured me I couldn’t have been going very fast because if I was, I would have landed in the field. He encouraged me to forgive myself because these little things are called ‘accidents’ and not ‘on purposes’ for a reason. He said, “There was a reason you weren’t supposed to make it to work today. It could have been much worse. I’m glad you’re okay.”

Me too, Kevin. Me too.

Kevin was right. No major damage. 30 minutes at the tire shop and I was back on the road. Thoughts started racing through my mind. I needed to call Crew Scheduling and get another trip. Gotta call my mom and Jeramy and let them know everything is okay. And call the insurance company and cancel the claim. Need to start looking for a replacement bed for the truck.

No, Carin. It’s time to slow down.

Everything happens when it should. Everything happens as it should. I was reminded today that when I try to cram everything possible into a finite amount of time, something has got to give. Today it was the traction in the big white Ford on Old Dennis Road.

My relationship with God ebbs and flows, waxes and wains. There are times where I need him and other times where he calls on me to do his work. I feel confident in my relationship with Him. Perfect in our imperfection. God came into my life long before I could choose him. I will forever be grateful to my parents for choosing the Catholic Church for my baptism and early moral direction. I still find comfort and warmth in the Catholic traditions. I am also grateful for both my grandfathers and the ability to observe them in their interpretation of Faith. One was a conservative man who you’d find every Sunday in the same pew of the same church following the same routine. The other, I never knew to attend a formal church service as long as I was alive, although he was a Methodist Preacher when my mother was a child. Instead he sang his Faith and told biblical stories and taught us about God in everything that he did. Both men were Godly men. Both were my mentors in Fatih.

I know and feel that now is a time for me to seek Him and reinvest in my Faith. This will be my first year in my new career and away from the traditions in which we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. My perfect journey to this moment in the season of Advent reminds me that my Faith must be constantly renewed. Time to slow down. Time to seek Him. Time to listen to what He intends for me.

I hear you. I’m listening.

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Happily Ever After

Holy buckets. This is actually happening!!

On a flight home from Portland a little over a year ago, I was in seat 1B and the sweet flight attendant in the jump seat awkwardly nearly touching knees with me, struck up a conversation. The usual, Where do you live? How was your trip? niceties were exchanged. She commented how lucky I was to call San Luis Obispo County, home. Of course I agreed but countered and said she was pretty lucky, too, because she gets to see the world. I shared with her my love of travel and told her that if I was younger and had it all to do over again, I’d be a Flight Attendant. She responded, “Honey, I’m 50 years old. I started this job when I was 47. I’m a single mother, managed to get my two kids safely into college while working two jobs. Now it’s my time!”

That conversation and that moment are permanently etched into my mind.

Last year was definitely a tough year and one of transition. I learned, once again that the status quo can change in an instant and to take nothing for granted. I learned that “home” is where my heart is, no matter what my address is. And most valuably, the check-list of life we all have, that is surely the key to happiness, should only be used as a guide. Often, the more boxes you check, the more illusive happiness can seem.

Rather than looking at happiness as a destination, I began to look at happiness as a state of being that runs parallel to life and our every day activities. I learned to be happy, no matter the circumstances, just as a cancer patient can find happiness on their worst of days. We can all agree that cancer and happy usually aren’t associated, yet, some of the most inspiring people we find are facing extreme adversity.

After a particularly enlightening work meeting last fall, I headed East for Reno to hopefully check a box called, “Tall, Dark and Handsome.” The 12 hours total drive time offered fantastic reflection about what I was doing and where life was going. As excited as I was about the newest Mr. Wonderful, I was equally pleased to be traveling again. For me, few things make me feel happier than to check out new places, and enjoy the company of new found friends. I recalled the last trip I had taken was to Portland for work .. Oh yes. That sweet Flight Attendant. My mind wandered with the miles and I wondered about what that life would really be like. About a month later, I Googled, Flight Attendant Position Available. Yahtzee!! Three companies were hiring. 9 months later, here I am!!

I’ll be working for one of the Big Three who has a very strict policy about Social Media and what we, as trainees and employees can share. I’m completely okay with that. If I choose to look at this time in my life as one of renascence, I’ll take the opportunity to spend more time with my electronics turned off and more time talking to the people in my immediate proximity. This doesn’t mean an end to blogging and social media. Simply, taking the opportunity to slow down and be present in the moment. I’m not sure if it was my normally hyper and anxious disposition or the 7+ years of taking over 100 calls per work day (not to mention text messages and emails) that had me adjusted to the constantly connected life. Here nor there, my future will be in the here and now.

I’ve gladly answered 1000 questions since this new chapter was revealed. The only questions that surprised me a bit were those about my happiness. Specifically, if this job would finally make me happy. I guess I can answer that a few different ways. 1. It is not this job’s duty to make me happy. 2. I don’t think I’m an unhappy person. 3. Happiness, to me, is a choice and one I choose every day.

So with warm and happy thoughts of an incredibly supportive base of friends and family, wheels are officially up on this journey. I will continue my life of not wasting moments, seizing opportunities and enjoying this crazy ride. If you find me radio silent occasionally over the next few months, I hope it only adds to the intrigue and fun. Next time I’m close by, ask me a thousand more questions and I will answer every one of them. Happily.

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Drugs & Addiction

Aggies and Speedballs; Shawna and Her Recovery

I’ve always admired Shawna. I remember her as being quick witted and having huge smile with a personality to match. She was full of energy and had a presence that demanded attention. She was never one of those kids that wanted to be the center of attention – she received it because she was working her ass off along side of us. I loved seeing her at fairs and shows and seeing her do well.

The first I’d heard of Shawna falling on hard times was when she was in the local paper for theft. There was her mug shot. Undeniably, the sweet girl that grew up on a ranch and in the show ring and on a softball field, was officially involved in the wrong crowd. None of this made sense to me. Her parents had done all the “right” things, supported her in the “right” lifestyle. Shawna’s friends and support group were the same people who were my friends and support group and surely, WE wouldn’t allow this to happen.

Truth is, drugs are everywhere. And they’re way more available than we would like to admit. Although Shawna drank alcohol in High School, she knew nothing of drugs until she was 19. She visited a friend at college and commented on her sudden weight loss. It wasn’t long into the visit until the friend was doing lines off the toilet lid and offered some to Shawna. Shawna obliged. Oddly enough, while Shawna enjoyed the feeling of her first high, this wasn’t what hooked her.

About a year passed before Shawna tried drugs again. She witnessed another friend doing drugs and was admittedly curious. The friend was adamant that she not try anything they were doing and insisted that she stay off drugs. Tenacious Shawna finally wore them down, and the beast was awakened.

I asked Shawna, when she was in the middle of her addiction, if she thought about quitting. Her response was clear. “Every day. I felt stuck. Every time I’d get high, I wanted to quit.” Shawna’s recovery is very closely tied to her Faith. Every day when she wakes up, she has to make a conscious decision to spend the day sober. Right now, she has surrounded herself with healthy, positive people. She said that she’s praying constantly and listening to Christian music. Her sobriety is very delicate and it got real complicated about a month and a half ago.

Shawna had been complaining of chest pain and blamed it on softball and something to do with her ribs. She toughed it out for a long time until she finally went to the hospital where she learned she had a massive lung infection, empyema, and pneumonia. She was admitted to the hospital for two weeks where she was in ICU for a week after surgery. For a brief period, she was even on life support complete with feeding tubes and a ventilator. The incision on her back where they drained and removed the infection is about 7 inches long and looks like a zipper from the 21 staples they used to keep it closed. Three tubes were inserted between her ribs to drain the fluid and infection. Her pain was indescribable.

As hospitals do, they hooked Shawna, an addict in recovery, up to Morphine. How else were they supposed to control that kind of pain? She said that being in the hospital and having access to those kinds of drugs was the worst thing ever. She said, “I loved it and it really scared me.” Shawna was back on drugs, but this time, it was Doctor’s Orders. As doctors and nurses do, they’d ask her to rate her pain on a scale of 1-10. She said she never gave them less than a 7 although at her worst, she was probably a little over a 5. An addict’s mind will choose drugs if they can get away with it. And she did.

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After she was released from the hospital, her regular doctor took over her prescriptions. Once she saw what and how much Shawna had been prescribed, medications were once again limited to doses where Shawna could’t get high. She told me the story of a Veteran who had been in the doctor’s office at the same time. She said he was recovering from several major surgeries and was also asked to rate his pain. He was clearly suffering and only rated it a 3. Reality check. Shawna admitted that her high pain ratings were the drug addict talking and she had to choose sobriety once again.

Shawna was laying on the couch at a friends house a little over a week ago. She was in a dark place and not feeling well. The rolodex of drug dealers started spinning in her mind. A friend called and invited her over for a BBQ. Shawna declined saying she would stay home and rest. Truth is, the next call she was going to make was to get drugs. She hit the ground and on her knees, she started praying. She called her friend back and was honest for the first time. She told her friend to come get her, right now, because if she didn’t, Shawna was going back to using drugs. Her friend sped across town and was grateful for the phone call and the opportunity to help. Shawna has always been afraid to reach out. This was a breakthrough.

I asked her how she’s doing now. She said she feels good again. Part of recovery is often, relapse and she admits she over did it on her pain medication since she’s been home from the hospital. She’s off all medication now and is back to reminding herself, every moment of every day, that she wants to be sober and healthy. Drugs aren’t part of the life and future she sees for herself.

When Shawna went into the hospital, she was initially put into a twilight state to aid in her rest and healing. While in this state, she posted rants on social media, spoke to people who had passed away years ago and was generally delirious. Her family finally took her phone away so that she stopped this very public, self-destruct mode she was in. Many people messaged me and approached me in public to ask about what was going on with her. I was quick to tell them that her hospitalization had nothing to do with drug use or relapse or addiction. Flukes happen and while addiction didn’t land her in a hospital bed this time, it did rear it’s ugly head.

Her spiritual mentor from Bethel House asked Shawna if she had prayer requests. As always, Shawna asked them to pray for her Soul Mate :), she asked for a quick healing from the infection and for the return of her strong mindset. I will join in the prayer for these things for Shawna. We talked this morning about many things and she sounded like the girl I have always loved – quick, happy and funny. She was so proud of herself and that breakthrough moment where she knew she was going to choose drugs but instead, chose to be around healthy friends. I encouraged her to remember that moment and call on it for strength when she is in a dark place again.

Addicts are good people. Read that sentence again. I understand that statement is confusing. They were’t born as junkies and thieves and liars and the person that broke your heart a thousand times. I’m not telling you to trust them and believe while they are in the throws of their addiction but I do believe Shawna when she said that she thought about quitting every time she got high.

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I believe Shawna and my friends, Sarah and Karin, when they say that they will never go back to drugs and that lifestyle. Sarah, Karin and Shawna are good people, who made a bad choice, that took them away from the good life for a while. But they’re back. As their friend, I choose to participate in the positive part of their lives. I thank them, every time I can, for coming back and for being a part of my life. I have always enjoyed them and their sobriety is a blessing to me too. I do not understand how they got to the point where drugs were the answer. But I choose to not make that the focus of our friendship. I love them all for a thousand reasons. Drugs are no longer a part of their life and if there’s anything I can do to help keep them sober, they know I’m here for them.

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Whiskey is for Drinking, Water is for Fighting

Honored and humbled as I share my first guest blog with my people. Water is a dificult subject and with the epic drought most of the Western United States is experiencing, passion and concern is universal amongst land owners, citizens, farmers and ranchers. Water divides, unites, destroys, solidifies, quenches and depleats as its quantities waiver. One thing is certain, the West needs more rain and snow. Moving forward, we also need to be smarter about usage, conservation, storage and regulation. Thank you, Megan Brown, for the oportunity to tell our story to your followers. Please take a moment to read and follow Megan’s blog, The Beef Jar.

The Beef Jar

One of the amazing things about farmers and ranchers is solidarity. We will always have differences of opinion about everything, but when push comes to shove, you’ll never find a group of people that are more supportive of each other. This becomes apparent to me every time agriculture has a serious event like a drought or a major storm.  As we know, the western United States is suffering from an epic drought. The networking, and information being shared amongst our groups right now is staggering. The messages of support and advice I’ve been receiving has blown me out of the water (sorry, bad pun). Carin has been one of those people that has offered her support. Like me, she is passionate about her way of life and ranch. She has graciously shared with me a post about her experience with our drought. Please take the time to follow her blog here

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Drugs & Addiction

Aggies and Speedballs; Timmy and how this project started.

My brother, Sean, and his wife had a beautiful baby girl, Ruby Rose, on May 30th, 2013. A year had passed and we were celebrating her first birthday. Many of my brother’s friends now had children of their own so my family was surrounded by these new families and tons of sweet babies.

Sean has a really tight knit group of friends. The closest of them started their friendships in elementary school and junior high. There were actually two groups. They referred to themselves as the POC and the COC; Pozo Oakie Crew and Creston Oakie Crew, respectively, although the COC gave up its title when the two groups waged a playful turf war early in high school and POC was the successor. I literally watched these boys grow up. It almost seemed that they were all my little brothers.

After high school, the POC boys decided to display their talents at the local softball field. Most had played from T-Ball up until you actually had to try out to make a team, at which point, most bowed out. There were a few that went on to play high school sports, most notably, Tim Janowicz. Tim and his brothers were popular, gifted athletes and well known in the community. I went to school with his brother Nate and my sister went to school with his oldest brother Jasch. Tim suffered major injuries in a tragic hunting accident midway through high school. After months spent in the hospital recovering, it seemed his shot at sports scholarships were all but lost. But as any athlete knows, the itch to play the game never goes away. And when he played short stop for the POC at Barney Schwartz Park on Friday nights, folks stopped to watch.

Timmy would dive for balls hit seemingly out of reach. He’d come up with the ball and in a flurry of dust and with Jeter-esque leaps, he’d hurl the ball right on target to get an out. Rec softball hadn’t seen talent like his very often. He paid no attention to the on lookers. His POC teammates on the other hand, they were thrilled that Timmy was making them look good. And so the team carried on for several seasons over a few years, even a few championship T-Shirts were won for the POC.

There were times we’d see Timmy and he’d be clear and coherent and normal. Other times he’d be thin and vacant. It was evident that he wasn’t healthy and that drugs were controlling his life. Speculation was that he was taking pills. As the years went on, rumors of heroin circulated around Timmy. We’d lose track of him and mention of his name would often prompt comments of ‘Not good,’ or ‘I haven’t heard he’s any better.’

We heard he’d been arrested. Felony convictions of possession of a controlled substance, weapons charges and grand theft. Some of us breathed a sigh of relief because at least in jail, he’d be safe, right? Wrong. 5:40 am, Friday, May 30th, 2014, Timothy Richard Janowicz was found unresponsive in his cell bunk bed. Dead. Coroner’s report published on June 24th, 2014 said Timmy died of acute heroin toxicity.

Generally a gregarious and jovial group, we found ourselves standing on the patio at Ruby’s first birthday party, surrounded by most of the original members of the POC, grief stricken because yet another one taken way too early by drugs. Add Timmy’s name to the list buried too young: Trevor Alverez, Jacob Gearheart, Shawn Arthurs, Ricky Johansen are a few of them I recognize or kids that I knew.

Distraught, angry and completely frustrated, I took to Facebook later that night and posted the article from Cal Coast News that announced Timmy’s death. I commented “Here’s a campaign for #NotOneMore. A gun didn’t kill Timmy, years of addiction did .. ” This short rant caught the attention of Cindy Dallaire. She felt compelled to tell the story of her daughter and their fight to keep her alive. I felt compelled to write it for her .. And so this project began.

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Timmy was the tipping point for me. Although no one close to me had died yet, I’d lost multiple friends to drugs and addiction. They knew drugs were a non-negotiable for me and until they were desperate for help, months would pass and I’d hear nothing from them. Truthfully, until Timmy died and Cindy contacted me, I admit I was completely naive to how profound the drug problem is in our area.

When this project started, I’d never heard of The Lighthouse Project, Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, Kayla Peach Memorial Foundation were, and I had no idea what all the Assistant District Attorneys did all day. The ADAs are busy processing drug crimes. Those three organizations and countless others are fighting to save the lives of kids who thought popping pain killers isn’t the same as doing drugs and now they’re addicted to heroin.

My next installment will be Shawna’s story. This is a tough one for me and I know it’s going to be difficult for her. She’s so strong when we talk. I get to see her successes daily through posts on Facebook. A few nights ago, she sold at a charity auction. Shawna has come a long way, baby. I feel guilty dragging her back.

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Drugs & Addiction

Aggies and Speedballs; Cindy’s Story

A nightmare scared me awake, Tuesday night. I dreamt that I couldn’t read a single note that I took while visiting with Cindy and Shawna for our second meeting. It took me several minutes to calm down and realize, it was just a dream. This project is haunting my dreams.

I arrived at the house to find Cindy hurrying to finish her nightly duties. She asked me to jump in the truck. I reviewed with her the preparation questions I’d sent her previously that day and we excitedly discussed the positive response to our first installment – over 1,000 views and several people we didn’t know reaching out to tell their stories and ask for help. Cindy said Shawna was home and that she might be able to join us. This would be the first time I’d been given the opportunity to speak with her directly. As much as this is Shawna’s life and her story, this is Cindy’s nightmare too. We were preparing to talk about one of the worst nights of Cindy’s life – the night she found Shawna dead.

Cindy and I drove around a bit trying to get baby Jayde to sleep – to no avail. Too much excitement for an affectionate two year old. But that’s okay. I have a soft spot for sweet little dark haired girls and this gave Cindy and I a few moments to chat, casually. At one moment Cindy said of enabling Shawna, “The more I tried to help her, the more I was killing her.” We are our own worst critics and hindsight is always 20/20.

When we finally sat down to chronicle Cindy’s perspective of this nightmare, I reminded her of a story she told me about finding Shawna, dead, down at the barn. Dead. No pulse, not breathing. Dead. I asked her if that was the worst night they had while Shauna was addicted. She agreed but followed up with the thought that they were all terrible. Cindy remembers it as a night before they went to court. She had fallen asleep in a the chair in their living room. She recalls startling herself awake and nearly falling to the floor thinking she needed to get to bed. When Shawna was going through rough times, Cindy and Sean would pull the keys out of their vehicles at night to help prevent Shawna escaping the ranch – this was one of those nights. Cindy noticed her truck was gone and immediately went to search for Shawna, fearing the worst.

Down the hill and in front of the farrowing barn, Cindy’s truck was parked but running. She opened the door to find Shawna, passed out with a needle still stuck in her arm, the truck heater on full blast. Cindy said that Shawna always hated needles. Cindy started screaming her name and “Don’t leave me!” amongst other things. Shawna didn’t respond. She had no pulse, she wasn’t breathing. Shawna was dead.

Cindy stepped up on the running board of the truck to pull Shawna out. She tripped on her house shoe with one arm around Shawna. They fell to the ground together and that was enough to force a breath into Shawna. Cindy did every bit of CPR that she knew – probably for five minutes. Shawna started showing signs of life so Cindy wrestled her into the truck to take her to the house where Sean could help.  By the time they reached the house, Shawna was regaining consciousness, angry and yelling for Sean.

Cindy and Sean helped Shawna reorient herself. It was apparent that she was going to be okay and another trip to the hospital wasn’t necessary. Once Shawna was coherent enough to gather her thoughts, she asked her Mom, “Why did you wake me up? I wanted to die. I can’t get off this stuff. This is too hard. I want to die.” Cindy slept in the bed with her daughter that night.

I asked Cindy if Shawna remembers that night. She laughed when she said, “Oh yes. I remind her of it constantly.” I asked Shawna the same question. “I remember most of it. It was really hot that day and the strangest thing was that I had the heater on full blast in the truck. I was that high.” I asked Shawna what she injected. She said it was heroin. Really strong heroin. She recalls knowing that this particular dose was so potent that she knew it was dangerous and it would probably kill her. That didn’t matter, she shot up anyway.

Shawna remembers taking the truck, heading down to the barn, shooting up and the next thing she remembers is her mom screaming for her to wake up. She remembers being angry at Cindy because she wanted to die. And the truck. That heater running in the truck on that hot summer night.

Cindy told me of other nights where she wouldn’t sleep at all. She’d hear the dogs barking and would pray it was Shawna coming home. But after checking her bed and checking the house, no Shawna. This happened often.

Frequent trips to the hospital became normal too. Once a week for months on end. Dehydration, stomach flu, food poisoning. Many trips were the result of trying to detox on her own. The trip when Shawna had food poisoning, the hospital gave her Morphine. Shawna said that she was excited at the thought of getting good drugs without having to find them. She now had a new avenue to pacify the cravings and to get high. Some trips were fake, but most were for legitimate reasons. Shawna remembers on one particular occasion being so weak and dehydrated that she fainted as she walked through the hospital door.

We talked about when Cindy knew that she was going to have trouble with Shawna. It was in high school, when Shawna started drinking. She’d sneak out down their long dirt road to get picked up at the gate so she could attend the parties all the cool people were going to. At the time of our meeting, Shawna still seemed frustrated that she had to sneak out and that she was so sheltered that she wasn’t allowed to go to these parties. Cindy would catch Shawna time and time again. Discipline included taking things away, even not allowing her to show her pigs – something Shawna loved very much. Nothing worked. In fact, the discipline drove Shawna to misbehave more. Ditching school, later nights, more parties, drinking whenever she wanted to. Nothing was going to stop her. Shawna acknowledged that until years later when she began losing the things she worked hard for on her own – the race quad, the nice truck, the good job – that the consequences of her actions began to hit home.

Talk of discipline and consequences started an interesting conversation. Cindy pointed out, “We teach our children to fear us by our reaction to what they tell us.” Shawna said she clearly remembers the time she told her mom that she’d had sex for the first time. Even though Shawna was 18 and legal to make her own decisions, Cindy lost it. She was incredibly upset thinking of all the things she had been through and not wishing the same for Shawna. But Shawna took it as her mom was mad at her. That she’d, once again, gotten herself in trouble. Looking back, Cindy says she wishes she would have been able to talk to Shawna about the consequences of sex and let Shawna come to her own conclusions about the gravity of her decisions. Cindy also recalled how upset she was when Shawna started smoking cigarettes. We all joked about how she’d probably trade everything for Shawna’s worst decisions to be sex and cigarettes.

Part of Cindy’s mission in telling this story is to help other parents to recognize early signs of drug use and to show them where to get help. I asked Cindy and Shawna what parents can look for. They both commented that paraphernalia is an easy one but drug users are often paranoid and crafty so they won’t leave it out where they’ll get caught. Nonetheless, look for folded up foil in trash cans and around their living space. And count your spoons in your silverware drawer.

I asked how fast the weight loss happened. Shawna became bashful and said that her weight is a big trigger for wanting to use drugs. She was as thin as 92 pounds at one point. But she used for over 8 years. She was skinny for a long time. Weight loss is an indicator but not always a good one.

Cindy and Shawna agreed on a few reliable tells. Look for alliances with strange people. Shawna said she didn’t even like the people she was hanging out with and getting drugs from but she’d defend the friendships to Cindy so that she could keep getting high. They said to pay attention to excessive time in the bathroom, locked doors, covered windows, any type of isolation from family and usual or close friends. Shawna said she’d lock herself in her room because she was high and she didn’t want to share her drugs with anyone.

Cindy recalls those days as odd; Shawna would be crashing around in the bedroom cleaning, rearranging, organizing. Shawna barely remembers how she’d pass the hours but it was seldom something productive. Shawna’s youngest sister, Stephanie, used to comment when the house was extra clean, “Oh look, Shawna must be high.” What mother wouldn’t want to come home to a clean house? Under these circumstances, Cindy would have traded anything for a messy house and to not go through what was about to happen. Cindy knew that this meant another week or longer of sleepless nights, praying that Shawna would survive her addiction.

Cindy mentioned that in her battles trying to save Shawna, she learned a lot, and some profound things about herself, in particular. She didn’t realize how judgmental she was. She used to see kids on drugs and think, “What kind of parent lets their kid get addicted to drugs? My kids are never going to do drugs.” She finished by saying, “Boy did God open my eyes!” She learned to never judge again. She learned that no matter how hard you try and how many things you do right, sometimes bad things happen to good people. She hopes that parents with children in the darkest of times, look at Shawna and know that recovery is possible and that sometimes we win this battle. And then, sometimes, we don’t.

Shawna and a friend celebrating a Round Robin win.

Shawna and a friend celebrating a Round Robin win.

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